Category: In English

Sex differences – the male & female Leadership

When going through the research  on gender and leadership it becomes clear that it is necessary to define the terms “sex” and “gender” and the use of these terms. And this is important. Because it makes a difference. I will explain why.

Both “gender” and “sex” can refer to the biological categorization of male and female. However, gender is a term with a much broader perspective than sex.

“the terms sex and sexes denote the grouping of people into female and male categories. The terms sex differences and similarities are applied to describe the results of comparing these two groups. The term gender refers to the meanings that societies and individuals ascribe to these female and male categories”[1].

Why is this important when discussing gender and leadership? Well, because often we try to compare the sexes, male and female leaders, which can be both fine and interesting. But we need to be aware of a dimension, which we cannot leave out, which is how the concept of gender affects leaders.

Looking at leadership in a gender perspective is important and interesting because leadership is an interactive process. A leader needs both social acceptance and approval from subordinates, peers, and superiors to be effective in his or her role [2] . Therefore, how others perceive a leader can affect a leader’s effectiveness. Because there is a constructed aspect of leadership how an employee interprets a leaders actions or behavior, e.g. according to their perception of gender,will affects how a person view and evaluate the leader.

Gender is a more complex concept than sex because it holds certain meanings, which society and individuals assign to gender.

Aspects of gender [3]


Now that we have the definitions in place, let us look at sex differences between male and female leaders.

Below is a table showing how male and female leaders differ.

This model is a very simplified picture of what many different studies found on sex differences between male and female leaders. Have in mind that some studies where based on 360-degree evaluations, meaning evaluation by subordinates, peers, superiors. Here the perception of gender could affect the evaluation.

That being said lets take a closer look at some interesting findings:

In a meta-analysis of 87 studies, Eagly [4] found that transformational leadership (overall feminine in style) and transactional leadership (overall masculine in style) appeared to be almost equally effective leadership styles, with the transformational style being slightly more effective.

There is a tendency towards men being more effective leaders than women, when the leadership role is masculine in nature. When the role is of a less masculine nature, female leaders are more effective than men. In government, education, and social services, women are viewed as more effective men, which could be because jobs in these areas are of a more feminine nature. Based on the above mentioned studies, Eagly concluded that “[…] women were judged to be less effective than men in leadership positions occupied by more men or associated with a higher proportion of male subordinates or when effectiveness was assessed by ratings performed by a higher proportion of men”.

Adams and Funk [5] surveyed Swedish directors, CEOs, and board members of publicly traded companies to find out more about their core values. They used a questionnaire that reflected the participants’ values with 40 different questions. The survey tested ten basic values, which are meaningful across cultures. The values were achievement, power, security, conformity, tradition, benevolence, universalism, self-direction, stimulation, and hedonism. Furthermore, as research has shown that women tend to be more risk adverse than men this was imbedded into the survey. A comparison was also made to members of the general population to see if the leaders differed from the average person in any way. Adams and Funk compared the results to international data and they argue that women executives in high-income countries are likely to share similar values as the Swedish female leaders in this study.

The study showed that male and female CEOs and directors differed in more ways. Male directors focused more on self-enhancing values such as power and achievement, while the women cared more about self-transcendent values, universalism and benevolence. The female leaders cared more about stimulation and had less focus on security and tradition. A surprising discovery was that the women did not turn out to be risk adverse but took more risks than their male counterparts did. In this study, the female board members were more prepared to take higher risks than the male board members.

In order to get a leadership position you have to negotiate “[..] with others to access the right positions, experiences, opportunities, resources, and assistance in both the professional and domestic spheres[6]. Studies show that women are less like to negotiate to obtain influence or move up in the hierarchy. Women have also been found to be more modest and less self-promoting.  In addition, women understate their success and achievements compared to men, who are better at promoting themselves [7].

In a study, comparing leadership style and behavior of managers in the UK across different industries, researchers found that women had a tendency to delegate less than their male counterparts [8]. In addition, the study found that male leaders, to a greater extent than female leaders, made use of inspirational motivation. Inspirational motivation is related to the transformational leadership style. The concept can be explain as the ability to create change by inspiring others. By painting a positive vision of the company’s future, this can affect the employees emotionally and engage them in helping to attain the company’s goals. The study did not find any significant differences when it came to other aspects of leadership style.

In a study of 360-degree leader assessments, researchers looked at how male and female leaders were rated. The assessments were collected by INSEAD in connection with an executive program. The study involved 2,816 executives in 149 different counties [9].

In this study, the idea that women tend to be more modest than men did not hold up. Women rated themselves higher than men did. Another surprise was that female leaders were given higher rating than their male counterparts. Both men and women scored the female leaders significantly higher than they did male leaders. The study found that women were only rated low on one component, and here only their male peers gave them a lower rating. This was on the component envisioning. There was no difference in how subordinates and superiors rated men and women on envisioning. Envisioning can be explained as being able to anticipate future organizational challenges, conveying strategies by setting direction, inspiring others, being innovative, and open. Envisioning or vision has been identified as a critical component of leadership.

In a very interesting study of 192 male and 192 female mayors in the US, it was found that male and female mayors had similar views on policy and budget issues and used power in the same ways. Differences appeared in that “[…] female mayors were far more willing to change the budget process, be more inclusive, and seek broader participation[10]. The female mayors were willing to admit to fiscal problems and enter into discussion when they changed their goals to a greater extend than male mayors were.

Next post will look closer at the similarities between male and female leaders.


Want to read up on the literature?

[1] Eagly, A. H., Johannesen-Schmidt, M., & van Engen, M.,L. (2003). Transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire leadership styles. Psychological Bulletin, 129(4), 569-591.

[2] Eagly, A. H. (2007). Female leadership advantage and disadvantage: Resolving the contradictions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31(1), 1-12.

Heilman, M. E. (2001). Description and prescription: How gender stereotypes prevent women’s ascent up the organizational ladder. Journal of Social Issues, 2001, 57; Vol.57(4; 4), 657; 657-674; 674.

[3] Ayman, R., & Korabik, K. (2010). Leadership: Why gender and culture matter. American Psychologist, 65(3), 157-170.

[4] Eagly, A. H. (2007). Female leadership advantage and disadvantage: Resolving the contradictions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31(1), 1-12.

[5] Adams, R. B., & Funk, P. (2012). Beyond the glass ceiling: Does gender matter? Management Science, 58(2), 219-235.

[6] Hoyt, C. L. (2010). Women, men, and leadership: Exploring the gender gap at the top. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4(7), 484-498.

[7] Budworth, M., & Mann, S. L. (2010). Becoming a leader: The challenge of modesty for women. Journal of Management Development, 29(2), 177-186.

[8] Oshagbemi, T., & Gill, R. (2003). Gender differences and similarities in the leadership styles and behaviour of UK managers. Women in Management Review, 18(6), 288-298.

[9] Ibarra, H., & Obodaru, O. (2009). Women and the vision thing. Harvard Business Review, 87(1), 62-70.

[10] Weikart, L. A., Chan, G., Williams, D. W., & Hromic, H. (2006). The democratic sex: Gender differences and the exercise of power. Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, 28(1), 119-140.

What are the reasons for the lack of women in top management positions?


Several studies have tried to uncover the reasons for the lack of women in top management positions. These studies have revealed and introduced concepts such as the glass ceiling and the glass cliff. The glass ceiling is a metaphor for the barriers women experience when they try to move into top management positions and the glass cliff is a phenomenon where women are recruited for positions where they are likely to fail.

As a woman, I find the question of why we see so few women in top positions both puzzling and interesting. What does it take for women to get to the top of the organizational hierarchy and do women follow a different path than men to get there? Are male and female leaders very different in their approach to leadership and are their qualifications different? Is one sex more fit for leadership than the other is?

My inspiration for looking into these questions is first of all that I am a woman, and a very curious woman! I  would simply like to know more about, why men and women are not equally represented in top management. Maybe there are several good reasons for this?

I got even more interested about looking further into the differences of male and female leaders,  after watching the documentary “Miss Representation”. It is written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, an American documentary filmmaker and actress, and the theme is “….how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America” (

I found the documentary very interesting, because of its focus on women in top management and how it reveals, that the number of women on boards in the American media business is extremely low and it reflects on, why this is a problem.

In Europe, we see the same tendency when it comes to female leaders.  In spite of the fact, that a third of all managerial positions in the EU belong to women, the Financial Times top 500-company list shows, that only 1.8% of CEOs in the EU are women. In the EU, approximately 10% of all board seats are held by women (Ely, Ibarra, & Kolb, 2011, p. 474)[1]. In the US, 2.2% of Fortune-500 companies have female CEOs and about 15% of Fortune-500 companies have women on their board and in corporate officer positions.

These numbers are interesting because statistics show that in Denmark 56%[2] of students accepted into higher education, in 2015, are women. Therefore, there should be a sufficient pool of qualified women to recruit from.Why is it, that so few women reach top management and board positions if they are as well-educated and competent as men?

Another perspective in the debate is that maybe women are just not very interested in a top management position due to the nature of the job and the requirements and demands it holds. The idea that women prioritize their family and opt-out could be an explanation for the low number of women in top management. If that is the reason, then it is by choice that so few women take on these jobs and then there really is no problem to discuss.

However, the different perspectives and questions make you wonder if women are really opting-out to avoid the stress and pressure that comes with a top management position or if the reason is related to gender issues such as stereotyping and the way we view leadership. Maybe most people, for obvious reasons, still view a boss as male and leadership to be a male discipline. Since most top leaders are men, this would make sense. Or maybe women are just not qualified because leadership takes something that most women do not have?

Provocative statement right! Is it true? In my next post, I will try to give you some answers to these questions.



[1] Ely, R. J., Ibarra, H., & Kolb, D. M. (2011). Taking gender into account: Theory and design for women’s leadership development programs. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 10(3), 474-493.


Testing the platform that lets you “praice” your network

Last week, I wrote a post about This new platform lets your network evaluate you with the aim to get a more truthful portrait of your personality and this can be helpful to both job applicants and companies in a recruitment process.

I have tested the tool and have a few observations, which I want to share with you:

“Praice” is given in full anonymity:

Good: gives the platform integrity, because anonymity could mean that people are more honest in their reviews.

Bad: I only invited people I have studied, volunteered or worked with because I wanted evaluations based on how I act in my professional life.  At the end of the evaluation, the person who is giving “praice” will have to answer the question “Do you like Christel?” and choose between a happy and a sad smiley with.

Well, in spite of the fact, that I only invited people I liked and enjoyed working with and people I thought would think the same of me, someone chose the sad smiley, meaning a “non-recommendation”. This means, that I only have an 88% recommendation rate on my profile. Because the evaluations are anonyms, I have no idea who the person is or why the person would not recommend me. Strangely, the person’s evaluation was very positive, which leads me to think it was a mistake, obviously! (if in doubt this is humor and irony☺).

This has me a bit worried. If you have a dispute with a customer, co-worker or business partner, they could easily make your recommendation rate look bad. Would people really do this? Maybe not, but in the safety of anonymity, people do strange things.

Impressions – a feature where “Praicers” can add their impression of you by writing a short text.

Good: you can choose if you want the text displayed on your profile. When you have a new “praice”, you will see a check mark and an “x” next to the text. You can chose to approve the text and keep it on your profile or discard it.

Bad: well nothing really. As with all personal branding, you want the world to know you at your best. People looking over you profile will have this in mind.

Conclusion: as with all assessment tools, you have to be aware that you do not get the full picture. However, with, you get other peoples view on a person, and this could prove helpful. That being said, you have to supplement with other tools such as an application, a CV, other personality assessments tools  and of course a personal interview.

It will be interesting to follow and see how it will take off and develop. Maybe in the future “praise” will be spelled with a “c” in stead of an “s”.

A new platform lets your network “praice” you!

Very interesting concept! A new platform – Praice – allows you to invite your network to tell the world how they see you.

The article I have linked to below is unfortunately only available in Danish. So, as a little service to all my English speaking readers, here is an explanation in English.

The aim of Praice is to get a more truthful portrait of your personality, which both job applicants and companies can use in a recruitment process. The platform is very simple and has both a Danish and an English interface, and can therefore be used all over the world.

You  ”praice” a person according to 5 different categories: core, mind, drive, vibe and style. The core of you personality – are you mostly a skeptic or an optimist, how do you think – practical vs. creative, what drives you – cooperation vs. competition, your vibe – are you sincere or cunning and how do you interact with people. Each category has 8 different words you can use to describe the person by. For the category “Core”, you can choose between: rational, individualistic, egocentric, optimistic, emphatic, conform, considerate and skeptic.

So, what can this platform be used for? Praice does not allow you to display your full profile in the same way LinkedIn does, and this is not its purpose either. What it does, is to provide an easy overview of your personal qualities as seen by your peers.

Check it out at and see what you think. Since the platform is quite new, you will not find many friends/connections there.

So get going and invite your network to try it out.

Link to article in Danish:

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